The first ever Birmingham Cabaret Festival was opened in style last night by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in the appropriately elegant Grade II listed venue The Old Joint Stock. Who knew Ma’am had such a great rack?

With boobs provided by Ginger Blush, Her Maj delivered a heartfelt opening speech, revealed a little of her pop predilections, and snipped the strategically placed ribbon to inaugurate both the festival, and new cabaret event The Footsie Club.

Birmingham Cabaret Festival will run for just over two weeks, bringing some of cabaret’s finest exponent’s to the UK’s second city for one-night-only evening shows. The Footsie Club, presided over by Stage Door Johnnie, is an integral part of the proceedings. For opening night, and again next week, Footsie audiences are treated to a classical cabaret selection (admittedly, an almost exclusively burlesque selection this evening) that showcases several of the artists who will be performing their full-length shows later on this fortnight.

Old movie clips of black and white dance routines play on a screen as we take our seats, building on the level of sophistication that the ornately decorated downstairs bar has established. As the audience settle into the cinema style rows in the intimate studio theatre, I am surprised by the volume of grey hair in the room. I have a feeling the Old Joint Stock’s usual theatre-going audience are about to be shocked into the cabaret whirl for the first time and, when we’re asked who has attended an event of this sort before, the vocal yays and nays sound around 50/50.

After Her Majesty departs the stage, Scarlett Daggers performs a fine themed peel as a pit-crew girl in charge of lubrication, with checkered flags and vintage auburn curls. The closely packed seats mean that some of the strategic moves are hidden from sight during a number of the acts, so I advise arriving early and plonking yourself at the front.

Next up is the hilarious lip-synching diva Jessica Blue, supported by the King of Furlesque, Kiki Lovechild (above). The muppetty mistress outclasses Miss Piggy by a mile, and isn’t afraid to take what she wants from her boytoy clown assistant either. Closing the first half, Missy Malone is a spangled Eastern European princess, whose sultry eyes tease and school us in how to be a fully appreciative audience when the clothes come off.

Ginger Blush will be bringing her brand new show about Nell Gwynne to the festival.

Ginger Blush will be bringing her brand new show about Nell Gwynne to the festival.

Stage Door Johnny‘s hosting style reminds me of a non-threatening favourite schoolteacher: here to look after us and let us have a good time, but will never go too far.  While the jokes sound like old club favourites, sometimes the rude bits seem to sit a little awkwardly.  After a neatly sung rendition of the rules, where the humour appears more in the lyrics than the delivery, it’s lovely to see him relax and let go later on with a song for all the exes out there.

In the second half, each of the artists appears again with another number, and I’m particularly struck by Lovechild’s inventive chapeaugraphy, and Ginger Blush’s return as a Bo-Peep styled English maid, creating her own pastoral idyll. We also see Missy Malone in The Mating Ritual, where a woman’s charms are crossed with a peacock’s visual powers of seduction, and we finish off in party spirit when a literally gift-wrapped Scarlett Daggers reveals our parting present.

The elegant Footsie Club has a veil of gentility that doesn’t lift off with the shirts and bras. Yes, there are flashes of flesh and bits of blue humour, but all executed in the best possible taste. Just as Her Majesty ordered.

As a semi-local living in the Black Country, I sincerely hope that the event will have a life in Birmingham beyond the festival, as it will do the city no end of good to have a regular taste of the cabaret high-life.’

Both Ginger Blush and Kiki Lovechild have their own shows later on in the festival.  On 23 May, Blush will be presenting a hilarious brand new show about the famous historical actress-cum-royal mistress’s in Nell Gwynn’s History Laid Bare while on 27 May Lovechild wonderfully whimsical The Weatherman gets its last ever outing.

Check out the Old Joint Stock website for more information on the Birmingham Cabaret Festival.

Images: Mr Suave for Kiki Lovechild and Michael Wharley for Ginger Blush